Be part of a problem-solving online site with 10,000 Solutions

September 21, 2011

Our world is rife with problems, but it also has many creative thinkers who can tackle tough issues when they work together. Arizona State University is inviting the community to work on the world’s greatest challenges by launching the 10,000 Solutions project.

The website 10, is a problem-solving site that ignites the power of collaborative imagination. The project offers a place where students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the public can share their ideas to impact local and global communities as well as build on others' ideas. Those who post solutions are also in the running for a $10,000 prize. Download Full Image

Already uploaded on the site are ideas about making healthy food more readily available at ASU, learning more about personal financial management, designing a disaster response app and creating a stronger sense of community.

“We’re looking for people to work together to impact local and global communities,” said Nikki Gusz, innovation developer for the Office of University Initiatives at ASU. “People can take an idea and run with it in their own way and in their own community.”

Many of the same features that are included in blogs are available with 10,000 Solutions. Users can comment on posts and “like” another collaborator’s solution.

Information is collected virtually through online posts, videos and photos. Users submit solutions that address issues in eight categories – education, technology, communities, sustainability, economy, health, human rights and discovery. Using tags to categorize information allows for the creation of online communities of people interested in the same issue.

The first phase of the 10,000 Solutions project runs through April of 2012 with follow-up phases to be determined depending on ideas that are generated and how the project evolves. Teams working on 10,000 Solutions include researchers working through a National Science Foundation grant to study how Challenge sites work and a faculty-staff leadership team working to engage people from all areas of the university.

Students also play a key role in 10,000 Solutions. “One of the most important and critical things about 10,000 Solutions is that it is at the baseline of innovation and engaging students in programs,” said ASU student Leah Luben, an economics major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Luben is also one of the student leadership team members for Changemaker Central. 10,000 Solutions is a signature program of Changemaker Central, a student-run resource hub on all four campuses that provides students with resources and opportunities to inspire, catalyze and sustain student-driven social change.

“10,000 Solutions takes effort to walk away from,” Luben said. “There is no expectation on who can participate. This makes 10,000 Solutions engaging to a wide variety of people.”

Researchers studying 10,000 Solutions project

September 21, 2011

What are the conditions that increase and sustain collective action?

Arizona State University researchers are working to answer this question through a National Science Foundation RAPID research grant that will study participation in 10,000 Solutions, a problem-solving participatory website initiated by ASU that addresses local and global challenges. Download Full Image

10,000 Solutions is a newly launched project that releases the power of collaborative imagination to create solutions to issues. The project seeks input from the ASU community and the public for solutions to the world’s greatest challenges on topics ranging from education to technology and from health to human rights.

Participatory challenge websites where citizens contribute to problem solving are an increasingly popular tool that governmental organizations are utilizing.

“Challenge websites are a new approach to utilize information from the public. We anticipate learning about this new medium’s effectiveness and potential during this study,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow.

Researchers are in the advantageous position of being able to study the ASU community, unique as a student body in both diversity and size. Part of the research will use current governance studies to guide the design of the 10,000 Solutions Web site.

“This is the first large-scale study of the online participatory platform’s effectiveness that we’re aware of,” said Erik Johnston, one of the principal investigators for the study and an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Programs. “Challenge online sites will be part of the next wave of governance, but to realize their potential, systematic research is necessary.”

Rounding out the research team are: Marty Anderies, associate professor in the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Marco Janssen, associate professor in the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change; Spiro Maroulis, assistant professor in the ASU School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Programs; and Hari Sundaram, associate professor in the ASU School of Arts Media and Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The National Science Foundation grant for $200,000 during the first year will support three stages of the program. During the first stage, researchers will map how participation spreads as the community proposes solutions to the world’s challenges. Real-time feedback will be tested to find out how being aware of one’s place within a community influences network dynamics such as who is communicated with, collaborated with and the degree to which people participate.

“We’re interested in finding out what happens when we provide information about the networks they are in and how this encourages increased participation,” Johnston said.

The second stage will examine different voting mechanisms and how those change community dynamics, perceptions of accountability and legitimacy and how ongoing participation is encouraged.

“We’re hoping that when people know their ideas are earning the attention of the community, they feel like they are part of a collaborative community, invest time in developing their ideas, and therefore are less likely to drop out,” Johnston said.

During the third phase of the research, participant teams interested in similar solutions will be combined to develop improved solutions and figure out how to implement their vision.

“That’s where the rubber hits the road. We want problem-solving,” Johnston said.

Researchers also will study how the quality of solutions generated varies depending on how teams are formed, the structure of the teams and diversity of participants within teams. Since this aims to be a multi-year project, researchers can also study how participant’s behavior and attitudes change over time and how next year’s class learns from this year’s experience. The research team will utilize the Elinor Ostrom Multi-Method Lab in the ASU Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity to study specific aspects about teams working together.

Research could provide valuable feedback on the viability of participatory online sites in government and other organizations.

“We need to rethink and rebuild the relationship between individuals and their government at every level. In the last 20 to 30 years, people have largely thought of government as a distant organization that will take care of issues. Anyone following the news can see that model is not sustainable,” Johnston said.